Paxton eager to feed off energy of home opener

Mariners lefty pitched 6 scoreless in season debut vs. Houston

Paxton eager to feed off energy of home opener

ANAHEIM -- After nearly two months of Spring Training and a week on the road to open the season, James Paxton is eager to come home. And this time, the Mariners lefty is going to embrace the emotion surrounding Monday's Safeco Field debut.

The 28-year-old southpaw will be on the mound for Monday's 2:10 p.m. PT game against the Astros and is looking for better early results than in the first home opener he pitched as a rookie in 2014. That year Paxton gave up back-to-back homers in the first to Albert Pujols and David Freese, then retired 14 straight batters before having to come out with a strained lat muscle in the sixth.

The Mariners came from behind to win that game, 5-3, and Paxton is looking to learn from the experience of dealing with all the hoopla of pregame ceremonies, fireworks, introductions and all.

"There's lots going on," he said. "Last time I tried to stuff it down and not react to all the energy in the building, but I've learned I need to use that energy and have it take me to the next level. Just let the fans energize me and use it."

Paxton is capable of bringing his own heat to the ballpark. He's developing into one of Seattle's premier starters, capable of high-90s heat and coming off six scoreless innings with just two hits in his season debut in Houston.

Paxton throws six scoreless

While Seattle has struggled out of the gate on their initial road trip, Paxton promises better things ahead. So he eagerly anticipates what figures to be a full house Monday afternoon.

"I think these fans are ready for this team to win and we are, too," Paxton said. "I feel really good about our team. I know we've had a little bit of a rough start here, but things are going to turn around and this team will be right where we need to be."

The home-opening series looms large as the Mariners rematch with the Astros, who took three of four in Houston and have proven to be a thorn in Seattle's side. The Mariners are 16-26 against the Astros since the start of '15.

"They're a good team," Paxton said. "They've got some good players over there and their pitching is really good. But we're pretty good, too. We anticipate to return the favor when we get back to Seattle."

Worth noting

• Reliever Tony Zych, returning from October biceps surgery, started Friday's opener for Triple-A Tacoma, but pitched only a third of an inning before the game was halted by rain in Sacramento. Zych gave up two hits in a 16-pitch outing and had runners on second and third when the contest stopped.

Zych is close to being ready to join the Mariners' bullpen, but manager Scott Servais said he probably needs at least another outing for Tacoma.

• Utility man Shawn O'Malley still hasn't returned to action for Tacoma since having his appendix taken out late in Spring Training. O'Malley is now recovering from a shoulder issue that was cleaned up at the end of camp.

Max Povse, the Mariners' No. 6 prospect, per, had an outstanding debut for Double-A Arkansas as he allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings in a 6-1 win over Corpus Christi on Friday. The 6-foot-8 right-hander, acquired from the Braves, had a no-hitter into the sixth.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.